trophy wife (1961)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 17 22:49:05 UTC 2014

My latest Wall Street Journal column is on the disparaging history of
the term "trophy wife":

(If paywalled, try Googling for "Decades of Scorn for Trophy Wives": )

"Trophy wife" is dated by OED3 (Mar. 2014 update) to 1973. As I
mention in the column, I've dated it back to 1961, when it appeared in
Phyllis I. Rosenteur's book _The Single Women_. While I haven't seen
the full text of the book, I've seen syndicated excerpts in a couple
of newspapers. Here's one such excerpt:

_Arizona Republic_, Dec. 3, 1961, p. F11, col. 3
Variations on this theme [of The Convenience-Wife] include the
Hostess-Wife of a businessman who entertains extensively and seeks a
higher-level home-branch version of his secretary; the Trophy-Wife --
the woman who was hard to get because of birth or wealth or beauty --
to be kept on exhibition like a mammoth tusk or prime Picasso; the
Show-Case-Wife, chosen for her pulchritude and constantly displayed in
public places, dripping in mink and dangling diamonds; and the Company
and Commuter wives who already are living legends.
A percentage of such wives, of course, aspired to be thus acquired,
but many who only wished to be possessed as women find themselves,
instead, possessions.

The same text appeared in the _Winnipeg Free Press_, Dec. 12, 1961, p.
10, col. 4.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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